The Weekend of Firsts: Pacific Surfliner and Hydrobikes

A childhood friend of mine, Rachel Fischer, visited me in Orange County and was looking to spend ample time gazing out at the Pacific Ocean. Due to the impending last few days of finals for summer semester I did not get to plan out a full itinerary as I had originally wanted to but there were two days I wanted to highly focus upon in this post…

Day 1 – “America’s Finest City,” San Diego

Rachel and I, took Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner into the Santa Fe Depot (SAN) which is the closest in proximity to the USS Midway Museum and other major attractions. Let me first take a moment to go over Amtrak’s easy to navigate online booking system…Amtrak’s website looks very similar to that of a major airline’s. I have already included some direct links to portions of their site that include maps of the Pacific Surfliner’s route and also the station my train pulled into. Another piece of information I wanted to point out is that there are discounts even for students!

I had only been on a train one other time going into Los Angeles, which is not the most scenic of routes, so I was determined to change my perception of our train system. I chose the Pacific Surfliner route to San Diego because I wanted to go somewhere Rachel and I could enjoy some views of the ocean–this was the right decision! Enjoying nice comfortable seats by the window, we watched the scenery roll by transitioning from agricultural greenery to tumbling waves and surfers. Wanting a full day in “America’s Finest City” we took the first train of the day at 6:52AM out of Anaheim (ANA) and arrived at the Santa Fe Depot (SAN) at exactly 9AM.

Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner making its last stop at the Santa Fe (SAN) Depot. - Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner making its last stop at the Santa Fe (SAN) Depot. – Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

Upon arrival, I was immediately impressed with how well taken care of the Santa Fe Depot (SAN) station was and it made me excited for the changes currently being made to the Anaheim (ANA) station. Anaheim’s is located right next door to Angel’s Stadium, Disneyland Resort, Honda Center and The Grove, which will make it a central transportation hub. An article on the construction can be found here.

Downtown San Diego is one of the easiest areas for a tourist to get around and with the help of Uber is extremely cheap (several of my own trips were approximately between $5-10). Our first stop was less than five minutes away in Little Italy! It has been some sort of a tradition of ours to track down unique coffee shops for breakfast each morning of our vacations and the one I chose this particular morning was called Caffe Italia, located right in front of the Little Italy main entrance and sign. Caffe Italia was bustling with activity as regulars stumbled in for their routine brew of fresh ground coffee. I’m not too fond of coffee myself but quite enjoyed their Orange Baba: a combination of Strawberry banana gelato blended with orange juice and topped with whipped cream. There were also an assortment of delicious pastries, bagels and coffee cakes to choose from. If you’re like me the environment is a large factor in my enjoyment of wherever I’m dining and Caffe Italia’s indoor/outdoor patio seating with friendly staff and romantic serenading background music took their small little coffee shop to the next level. And for the animal lover, pets are welcomed and dog treats are complimentary!

Taking another UberX car, our driver Darren laughed with us and shared stories of his own experiences as a college student in Southern California (turns out he had even temporarily lived in Huntington Beach, Surf City U.S.A.). Darren dropped us off right at the park next to the USS Midway and since we had time to spare before we enjoyed a stroll before heading over to check-in with Hornblower Cruises for a two hour tour of the bay; check-in can be found right in front of the battleship. Once on the top deck of the boat passengers can purchase drinks and snacks while the captain provides facts about everything there is to see in the bay. Incredibly scenic views, the harbor cruise is a photographer’s paradise!

"America's Finest City," San Diego Bayfront - Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

“America’s Finest City,” San Diego Bayfront – Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

USS Midway - Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

USS Midway – Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

"Unconditional Surrender" invoking both Romance and Patriotism - Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

“Unconditional Surrender” invoking both Romance and Patriotism – Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

After our tour of the bay, waiting at the dock was a pedicab–I’ve never ridden in one before but since there were so many people looking as if they were enjoying themselves I just had to try one myself. Our driver’s name was Gary who had a simple bike, others blast memorable 90’s songs, I wish could remember the name of the pedicab company Gary works for but should anyone know he deserves recognition. Initially what I thought would be a short ride from here to the Seaport Village turned into another mini tour! Gary took us around the park we casually walked through and pointed out the World War II memorial statues and their importance. As we continued around he pointed out an aircraft carrier across from the USS Midway with a #70 painted on it–this particular vessel was the same that took down Osama Bin Laden. Watching her sit across the way a thought occurred to me: this is either the most dangerous or safest place to be right now. I settled with the latter, what better environment than being surrounded by our troops. Continuing on our ride, we headed towards the Maritime Museum where Rachel and I learned about each of the ships docked there. Among all of them I was extremely drawn to the HMS Surprise which was used in the filming of Pirates of the Carribean and in my opinion the most beautiful ship I had ever seen. Now it was a very hot day so Gary thought it would be fun to take us to the Waterfront Park located directly across the street from the Maritime Museum. We strolled with our feet in the cool water while we watched families playing around us and I was impressed at the level of customer service we were receiving on this simple pedicab ride. Relaxed and cooled off, we got back on the bike and headed toward our final stop, Seaport Village. After we said our goodbyes and gave Gary a generous tip, Rachel and I proceeded to explore some of the shops at the Seaport Village and even rode the carousel (which mind you goes extremely fast) before heading to the next stop on our itinerary.

Dine, educate and relax at Balboa Park - Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

Dine, educate and relax at Balboa Park – Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today

By this time it was about 3:45pm so it was off to Balboa Park to explore! I absolutely love Balboa Park not only for its gorgeous Spanish influenced architectural designs but also because of all that is offered there! Here is a list.

After wandering around enjoying the scenery for a while Rachel and I start to get hungry so we opted for a restaurant in Balboa Park I had been to before called The Prado. Now this is typically not a slip I ever make but I neglected to check the menu to see if there was a difference between the lunch and dinner menus. But when you are as hungry as I was this mistake can cause irritability and frustration which resulted in what Rachel referred to as being “h-angry” (a play on the words hungry and angry). Let me finish by saying that The Prado is not to be shamed in terms of the customer service, their servers are very attentive and delightful which is one of the reasons why I love this restaurant. They also have a gorgeous outdoor patio which is my favorite place to dine while on property, make sure you ask for it! When the sunlight catches the leaves it illuminates the rest of the patio. In my personal opinion, their lunch menu is much more appealing and has variety for everyone in your party. Take a look for yourself!

Surfers at Sunset - Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Time

Surfers at Sunset – Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Time

By the time we left the restaurant it was time to head back for our 6:45PM train departure on the Pacific Surfliner heading back to Anaheim. This was not enough time in order secure first choice seating since there was a huge line to take the last train of the day, I would recommend getting there 30-minutes before departure. We were some of the last passengers to board but we still easily found seating near the rear of the train. Now as I mentioned before the route in the morning to San Diego was absolutely gorgeous…watching the sun set at the end of the evening was even better! I got a lot of great shots on my camera most of them didn’t even require a filter! The passengers on this train were a lot more rambunctious than the morning ride but soon fell asleep shortly after. Exactly at 9PM we arrived at the Anaheim station where an Angels game was going on! I love Southern California, there is always something exciting going on.

At the end of the day we were exhausted from our grand tour, I do not believe we could have had a better day in “America’s Finest City.”

Day 2 – Hydrobiking in the Alamitos Bay, Long Beach

Completely beat from the day before we slept in and then lazily tried to figure out what our plans for today would be. I have used Groupon on many occasions but sometimes it seems to be a hit or miss on what they offer. One that I had been wanting try out for the longest amount of time was a hydrobike. I had seen many of these in the Alamitos Bay Marina of Long Beach while strolling through some of the shops next to the landing and in my mind they appeared to be fun and fairly easy.

On a hydrobike the rider peddles on top of the water on a contraption like this…

*Note: Most items on Groupon you purchase require users to reserve at least 24-hours in advance…do not use it for a spontaneous trip.

Long Beach Hydrobikes highly recommends making a reservation and I was able to do so via text! The attendant responded quickly and we were on our merry way. When we arrived there parking was easy and best of all, free. We got out and walked down to the landing with time to spare, on a busy day I recommend utilizing the I-405 North freeway over Pacific Coast Highway, two words: carpool lane.

The attendants at the landing were pleasant, to some they could come across as scruffy irritable men but deep down underneath their tough exterior they were tremendously helpful. After signing a waiver form, one of the attendants shows you a map of the bay where you will be biking on a pre-routed one hour ride to Treasure Island and back. I was fine with the idea of getting on one of these puppies until it was my turn…instant panic struck as I experienced a “Peter” lack of faith that I would stay afloat. Frozen on top of my hydrobike the attendant tried to coax me to start peddling, “Sweetheart, you have to peddle. You can do it.”

As I finally started peddling away from the landing I suddenly felt as if I was tipping to one side and that at any moment would topple over. Were it not for the approaching yachts I would have never budged from where I sat petrified. One peddle at a time I started to become more comfortable peddling faster and faster until it became easy…like riding a bike.

It was a fun and a great workout! I’m very proud of what we both accomplished.

Conclusion –

Rachel conquered different activities on other days when I was working at the hotel but all in all she had a fantastic time. She has in a way become a great travel buddy for me and I can’t wait for our next adventure–next time hopefully it will be outside the realm of SoCal.

I have some other blog posts coming out within the next few days so keep up, you’re in for a nice treat!

Make sure you’re following me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for instant updates on upcoming adventures.

Pageant of the Masters: The Art Detective

Pageant of the Masters tickets

When I walked through the gates of Laguna Beach’s Festival of Arts, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from my first experience at Pageant of the Masters. Several months back I received a wonderful opportunity from the Laguna Beach Visitors Center for a tour of not only their lovely beach town but an inside look at how they bring art to life. Our tour guide took us backstage to meet the set designers, costume designers, hair and makeup artists, and the lighting designer—all who when their talents are put together with music and performers standing recreate world renown masterpieces.

It is recommended to arrive an hour and a half prior to show time; parking being the most tedious task since Festival of the Arts is located right in the middle of a canyon about 10-15 minutes inland of Laguna Beach. The parking, closest proximity to the main entrance varies between $10-15 and has attendants that direct you where to park. These lots fill quickly which is why I stress that you get there as early as you can. When entering the lot you will see a line in front of a kiosk, this is where attendees will pay, using a credit card or exact cash—it does not give back change. There is also a complimentary shuttle in the form of an old fashioned trolley if attendees park further away.

At this point I’m standing in awe at the center of the Festival of Arts. There is live jazz entertainment, a wine bar, food stands, a full restaurant, and local artists with their own pieces to share. Audience members are encouraged to talk to the artists and can even make purchases! Right before the performance you can walk over to the rental stand for blankets ($5) and binoculars ($10). Initially, I was unsure whether or not both items were necessities but believe me they sell them for a reason.

This year’s theme, The Art Detective highlights pieces that were shrouded in mystery and others that were the center of famous heists. Among my favorite artworks displayed were the Egyptian Discoveries such as the Sun Temple of Ramses II and the Temple of Queen Nefertari both shown near the close of Act One. As soon as the lighting brought these two wonders to life, my mouth dropped. Each of the other masterpieces portrayed are unique in their own right but there’s something about seeing ones you’re more familiar with than the rest. Although I’ve never been to Egypt personally, it felt as if I was instantly taken there. Incredibly realistic and awe-inspiring are only some of the adjectives I can think of to describe the Egyptian Discoveries.

Act Two was significantly faster than the first and was over in flash. I’ll leave the rest for you to see for yourselves. I can see now why many flock back to the event year after year. I think I found myself a new tradition! Special thanks go to Stephanie Reid (Where OC Magazine), Sharbie Higuchi (Pageant of the Masters), and Deanna Durst (Mendocino Farms).

Festival of Arts does not permit photography of any kind inside the arena and guests will be asked to check-in their cameras. Pageant of the Masters is not recommended for children under the age of 4. The Art Detective includes the use of nudity, strobe lights, and fog machines. Go to http://www.foapom.com/pageant-of-the-masters/ for tickets and other information, now playing through August 30th.

“Light in the Piazza” Lights Up South Coast Repertory’s Stage

Light in the Piazza SCR 020414

The cast of South Coast Repertory Theatre’s “The Light in the Piazza.” — Debora Robinson / SCR

 

“Say it Somehow,” would be the song that perfectly describes how speechless this cast left me after their performance. Being a common theatergoer myself I was surprised I had never been to a performance at South Coast Repertory before. Most of the actors in the cast had Broadway experience underneath their belt and were perfectly casted for this larger than life show.

In case you are unfamiliar with this musical, “Light in the Piazza,” is the story of Margaret Johnson (Patti Cohenour) and her daughter Clara’s (Erin Mackey) vacation in Florence, Italy during the 1950’s. Clara meets Fabrizio Naccarelli (David Burnham) the love of her life while touring the sights with her mother. The events following make it more difficult for Margaret Johnson to handle as Clara exhibits the constant desire to be treated as an adult despite mental and emotional complications.

Patti Cohenour is hilariously realistic as Margaret Johnson, the controlling but loving mother. Erin Mackey complimented her very well as her daughter Clara—the two shared effortless comedic timing. David Burnham’s brought the romance to the show with his Italian serenading and beautiful voice—the perfect Fabrizio. And let’s not forget the actors who nearly stole the show providing the comic relief, the family of Fabrizio portrayed by Perry Ojeda as Signor Naccarrelli, Mary Gutzi as Signora Naccarelli, Christopher Newell as Giuseppe Naccarelli, and Melina Kalomas as France Naccarelli.

“Light in the Piazza,” is the perfect combination of comedy and drama, making it a realistic appreciation of life, love, and hope. South Coast Repertory states the performance is appropriate for middle school and above as it does contain herbal cigarette smoking. I would however suggest it for high school and above as the show does have mature content. The entire performance runs about two hours and 15-minutes including one 15-minute intermission.

Since South Coast Repertory is located conveniently across the street from South Coast Plaza, there are shops and restaurants to enjoy prior to the performance. Looking for a restaurant with ambiance and style, try Scott’s Seafood or Mastro’s Steakhouse.

Parking for South Coast Repertory is $10 in the parking structure located by the venue. Do not park in the South Coast Plaza parking lot as they are now implementing a new rule prohibiting those watching a performance from using their parking lot. Vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense.

Tickets to go see “Light in the Piazza,” can be purchased online at: http://www.scr.org/calendar/view?id=6096. Looking for a discounted ticket? Purchase tickets right at the box office two hours prior to show time. Performances run until February 23rd so don’t miss the opportunity to see this wonderful production!

South Coast Rep 020414

 South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa — Tamara Mendoza/Suitable Travel Today